Yesterday I had a discussion (read: screaming fight) with David at Starbucks about the sacrifices of being vegan. David was an omnivore before we got together and is now (most days) a vegetarian, thanks to my influence - his words, not mine, I never try to influence anyone. David claimed that being vegan does have its sacrifices while I kept insisting that wasn't the case. Now that I've had some time to think about it, I've realised we were both right. And wrong.
Going vegan is a pretty big life change, at least if you do it right. To me "being vegan" and "following a vegan diet" are far from the same thing. It's like the difference between "I am a Muslim" and "I don't eat pork". You can abstain from pork without being a Muslim, but if you are a Muslim, it's likely that Babe is not part of your diet, although I've met a few Muslims that don't follow that particular rule. You can't be a vegan without following a vegan diet, but you certainly can follow a vegan diet for health reasons and not live a vegan life in all other aspects (are you still with me?).
To me, living a vegan life means doing your best to limit the harm you do to any other living creature. It means living as green and planet-friendly as you can. It means that leather, fur, wool and silk are not on your shopping list. It means that, when shopping for beauty products, it's "no bunny, no money". And obviously it means being compassionate toward your fellow humans. After all, we're the ones with the power to change the world. Which is a pretty huge undertaking. So, of course, when you embark on a path like this, your life is going to change. Depending on how you see it, there may or may not be sacrifices.
"But I don't like falafel!" cries my better half in front of the, from a cruelty-free standpoint, pretty dire Starbucks sandwich and salad selection. As he isn't 100% vegan (or vegetarian), when faced with a menu where the only animal-free option is something he doesn't like, David tends to go for an animal-based food. I can't blame him: most restaurants, cafés and other food establishments are far from vegan-friendly (unless specifically aimed at vegans) and more often than not you end up with a greasy "burger" consisting in a plastic-looking carrot and pea mush baked into oily breadcrumbs. Trust me, a falafel day is a good one. Even if I felt like screaming, "do you know how many times I've had to eat things I didn't like just because nothing else on the menu was vegan?", a part of me understood him. So here's the question: would you eat something you don't like - or not eat at all - in order to stay on a vegan path? For me, the answer is a big YES. But that's not the case for everyone, and I don't blame the people that don't think like I do. That's why I applaud people that say no to meat most of the time, or don't eat meat and do wear leather, or say no to fur but yes to meat and leather. Committing all the way is hard, and just doing something definitely counts.
"It can be challenging sometimes. Where there's a will, there's a way", said my personal hero (and number one erotic fantasy object) Jared Leto in a recent online fan chatroom when asked about vegan life. He quickly added, "But cheating is okay". I AGREE, and not just because Jared said it. That doesn't mean that I'll eat steak on my birthday: it means that I might have taken a bite of my sister's wedding cake even though it wasn't vegan. It means that today, when I was out of toothpaste and had better things to do than go to Superdrug for a cruelty-free one, I got a generic one from Tesco (what those "better things" are? Work. Yep, on a Sunday). To me, vegan's not about 100% perfect all the time. It's about making a change. Taking a step. Standing up for something that's so important to me that it doesn't feel like a sacrifice, even when it is.
This summer, when sitting in a restaurant and sipping an orange juice while my whole family tucked into a traditional Swedish lunch, I found that the only things bothering me were a) the "poor you!" looks from my mum; b) the "oh, look at that weird girl, she's not eating, she must be an anorexic, even though she's not skinny enough" looks I got from people walking by and c) everyone's reluctant attitude towards walking to a veggie burger stand with me lately (David did in the end). The fact that I was missing out on the meatballs and mash did in no way, shape or form feel like a sacrifice. Likewise, last month when I had lunch with some friends in Milan, everyone got a burger and I had to eat a tiny grilled-veggies sandwich. It wasn't great. But it's my choice and I stand by it. As a fashion fanatic, I can't honestly say I never feel a sting of "aw, man!" when forced to leave a gorgeous bag or a super-soft chunky knit sweater, or a fabulous pair of shoes in the shop because they're made of animal skin. Of course it's not fun. But then I remember why I'm doing this.What it stands for. And it feels like a privilege, not a sacrifice.
I feel honoured to live a vegan life: to me, it's a celebration of life and a dedicated commitment to peace and compassion. Every time I choose a vegan option, be it food, clothing or beauty, I feel like I'm giving just a tiny, tiny bit of myself towards the goal of a better world. And that's worth saying no to a muffin.
Picture from Pinterest